Friday, March 20, 2009

Eating - Healthy Vs. Delicious?

I've been giving a lot of thought (and even some effort!) in to what I should eat for optimum health, versus what I too often want to eat. Despite the food pyramid, the 5-a-day plan for fruits and vegetables, the 3-a-day plan for dairy products, and the endless diet advice, I sometimes am forced to conclude that there are really only three food groups. These are convenience foods, comfort foods, and foods that are good for me.
Convenience foods are inevitably outrageously priced, but I buy them because I am tired, or in a hurry, or both. Sometimes they are packaged at the grocery store. Just add a microwave and I have something hot to eat. What, exactly, I’m not always sure, and reading the box definitely does not help. Other times I go to a drive-through restaurant and yell into a box, pay a fortune, then pick up my bag containing a meat-like substance on a bun. I woof it down and head to my next task. Although billions of advertising dollars are spent to try to convince me that I am eating a delicious meal, I recognize it for the unhealthy compromise that it is. I can always tell when I am eating convenience food because it tastes like sawdust, and there is nothing left in my purse to buy good food with.
Comfort foods, the ingredients of which often include cream, butter, sugar, and quite possibly chocolate, aren’t usually that expensive. It takes some time to prepare them, and involves considerable clean up as well. But, oh, the smell of cinnamon buns baking in the oven makes the time well spent! A large bowl of mashed potatoes with a pool of melted butter, light, flaky biscuits with home-canned jam, and crispy fried chicken makes me think of my grandmother. Spooning cool ice cream bathed in hot fudge sauce into my mouth brings back my childhood. Biting into a macaroni noodle with cheese oozing out the side is a soothing treat. I lovingly concoct special meals for my family to give them pleasure and to show my love for them. But all that delicious comfort food comes with a price, and with a sigh of regret, I turn to food that is healthy.
For some reason, the term “healthy food” seems to conjure up whatever I hate the most. Hot, smelly spinach, tasteless, naked vegetables, or a tiny piece of broiled, skinless, spiceless chicken seems virtuous. If it is awful, it must be good for me, right? Well, maybe not. I think back to a perfect apple I once ate. I was in Washington, D.C. and apples were abundant at every roadside stand. I bit into one, and I’ve measured every apple against it ever since. It had a thin, red skin that broke crisply under my teeth to reveal firm white flesh crossed with red veins. Bursting with flavor, it was tangy, but not tart. The best peaches were found in Georgia. Perfectly ripe, juice dripping off my elbows as I ate, there could be nothing better. One memorable summer vacation in Indiana, the corn was ripe on my grandparent’s farm, and the tomatoes were huge. I went and pulled the tassels back to reveal the golden kernels underneath, and then I picked as many as I wanted. My family and I husked them, and, stripping off the corn silk, we dropped them in large pots of boiling water. While they cooked, we sliced the juicy red tomatoes and put them on a platter. Some bread and butter rounded out the meal, and we ate our fill, knowing that if we wanted more we had only to go out and pick it.
Perhaps healthy doesn’t have to be tasteless. Most of the healthy foods aren’t that hard to prepare. If I’m willing to wait until something is in season and buy it fresh, I know it will taste wonderful. On reflection, I see that healthy food can be convenient, comfortably delicious, and good for me, too! I'm thinking maybe it is time to begin a vegetable garden...

14 comments:

GrandmaKathleen said...

Your post displayed your love of food so vividly. I loved your descriptions of your comfort foods, especially "Spooning cool ice cream bathed in hot fudge sauce"
I have had to follow the healthy lifesyle to keep ny diabetes in control. I read all the labels and buy sugarfree products and products with no more than 9g of sugar..
However I must admit when my reading are in the 70's I will have that Taco Bell Fast food burrito, or that flaking biscuit or a delicious blueberry muffin.I call it feeling good food, my comfort food to keep me wanting to eat healthy.

Beverlydru said...

I like that- the new 3 food groups. Too true!

Cherdecor said...

I have found that when I don't eat for a couple of days, any apple is like eating dessert! Ha! Ha! That is TRUE! I know some people who have ruined their taste buds in just eating hot and spicy foods so they will not eat anything that is really good for them. They say that it has no taste. Limiting high calorie foods is the best way to taste food and to enjoy it.

I think we all should start planting gardens. I think we would enjoy those fresh veggies.

Betsy said...

Suddenly I'm hungry....

Wanda said...

What a great essay on eating...
I was hanging on every word and saying been there done that!!

I do love comfort food....

When I go to the kitchen, it's usually to bake up something that will make me feel good, and leave that wonderful smell in the house.

Isn't that what a Grandma's suppose to do??

(((smile))) Thanks for the post!!

steviewren said...

Mmmmmm, I'm really hungry now. Strawberries have been on sale at the grocery store recently. They have been ripe, juicy and sweet. Biting into them has been sublime, they've been so delicious.

Aimee said...

Planting a garden is something I want to do. Our house is for sale right now so I can't do it now, but I do have some pepper, tomato and strawberry plants in pots. I'm really tired of the grocery store produce these days. I've stopped eating apples because I just can't find a good one anymore! I think I'd eat healthier if I grew my own!

Aimee said...

I want to plant a garden too. Our house is for sale so I can't plant one now. I do have some pots of strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes. I've gotten really tired of the sub standard produce in the grocery stores these days. I can't remember the last time I bought an apple that was really good! My father-in-law and brother-in-law are both farmers so the only corn on the cob I'll eat is right out of their fields! I think I'd eat a lot healthier if I grew the food myself!

jenniferw said...

An excellent post and timely! I believe that once our taste buds are dulled by too much sugar, salt, and preservatives, we have likely crossed over into gluttony, which slowly erodes all sense of the precious and irreplaceable. Your stories of fresh corn and tomatoes, and the perfect apple, made my mouth water! When you broaden your horizons with regard to REAL food, and determine to eat natural and healthy, there are so many wonderful flavors waiting to be savored. I heard recently that many more opportunities present themselves on a narrow path, than on a broad one. The comparatively narrow path of eating healthy presents so many wonderful opportunities to discover new tastes and textures! Then when you go to buy a dress ... WOO HOO! You're a size or two smaller!

Susan said...

I think you have a great idea re. a garden. I've found we eat more healthy when I have tomatoes "coming out my ears" out the back door. I know what you mean, though ... why is it that most all the "good" food is not good for you?? Sigh ...

Charli and me said...

Great post! I love fresh vegetables ♥

Protege said...

Ah, this was a wonderful post!;) I am reading while having my "healthy" lunch at work, consisting of boiled vegetable sand a piece of rye bread.;)Boring, but quiet tastsy when I am hungry.;)
I so understand everything you write about here. Living on my own, I find cooking not just boring and time consuming, but also a lonely task. I admire those who can cook healthy meals for themselves and enjoy them in solitude.
When I come home I usually prepare canned food or frozen food. Although I try to keep it healthy, I know it would be better to cook something fresh.;)

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I enjoyed your three food categories, but I'm glad you ended with a better perspective about healthy food.

I'm going to go back to growing vegies this year too, but I think I'll start out small.

Gwendolyn said...

There is a verse (and I cannot remember the reference right now!) that says something like, "To the hungry, every bitter thing is sweet." I believe that sometimes we have our palates so overstimulated with flavor that we confuse our tastebuds. When we cut back, or fast for a while, it is amazing how sweet and luscious even the simplist of foods can taste!

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